Showing Appreciation

Showing Appreciation
Photo by shinyobject
Ph0to by shinyobject. Used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

There was a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Ed this week in which the author was advising a smart but abrasive younger colleague to “try being likable“. The phrase that really struck me was “Think of what you could accomplish if people actually wanted to help you”. The piece was focusing on interacting with peers, but it reminded me of discussions I’ve had with peers about interacting with the people who make it possible for you to do your job, which I’ve touched on previously.

For example, most of my work is done on a super-computing cluster. In order for me to do research, I need the server up and running. Last Friday was System Administrator Appreciation Day, and so my group brought the sys admin team various goodies. They just did some major system upgrades which are having stability issues. Because they remembered me , when I contacted them about it, I probably got more information thank I otherwise might have, and extra follow up. Also, because we primarily interact over email during the year, it helps to put a voice to the words on their screen. It is also very easy to misinterpret the tone of email, especially if you’ve only ever interacted with someone electronically.

You don’t have to fawn over people to get them to like you, just express sincere thanks when they do something that makes your job easier or possible. In many ways, interacting with support staff can be treated as a form of networking. At this point in my career, I see networking as having two major aims: helping me find a job when I graduate, and helping me do my job now. If someone helped you find a job at their company, you’d probably want to show them gratitude in some form. Why wouldn’t you thank the people who help you get things done?

Who makes it possible for you to do your job?



When I left my first co-op to go back to school I bought flowers for the women on the soldering line who made the custom cables that went into our products. They were super nice during my six months there, teaching me to solder and showing me how to use some of the special equipment they had (laser wire strippers are awesome!). They were very appreciative of the gesture and I ended up with a recommendation from them to use in the future.

As an added bonus my bosses’ wife worked on the soldering line so I was able to have the following conversation with him that morning:

Me: Hey Boss!
Boss: Hey Carmen! How’s your last day going so far?
Me: Not too bad sir, bought your wife some flowers and she really liked them.
Boss: Say what now?!

In my soon to be released new book, “The World Traveler in Saudi Arabia …” I point out the value in having ‘Friends at the Bottom.”

Many people will tell you how they have benefited from having ‘Friends at the Top,’ but the reality is that those people are hard to find and harder to get them to become friends.

‘Friends at the Bottom,’ are way more useful, helpful and valuable. Also, they are cheaper. A few minutes spent appreciating someone’s work has had a bigger effect for me that spending tens of thousands on Country Club memberships. (I believe this, but have never belonged to a Country Club, so, it’s my opinion, not a verified fact.) Try spending a few minutes appreciating the work your draftsperson does versus appreciating your manager’s work. It will become obvious quickly.

It really cracked my up to hear someone being advised to “try being likeable.” What would Mister Spock have replied? “Fascinating.”

Comments are closed.